I think that every person, every once in a while, must greet the sunrise in a strange place, preferably a beautifully strange place, and perhaps with a breakfast of last night’s champagne leftovers and a bit of dew-splashed chocolate. In the case of Sasha and I, we also had the apricots that some guy dropped off for us after hearing us sing at the beach for a full two hours in the night. I personally believe that few things are better than the phrase – “I like your singing, here’s some apricots as a reward” – from a stranger.
The sand is not a very comfortable place to sleep. We had blankets and skiing jackets, and with good reason – it was so cool at dawn that you could see your breath coming out in little puffs.
At one point in the night, two guys stood over us and wondered out loud if we were alive. I think they were also the ones who swiped our champagne bottle, but charitably left behind the champagne that was still in the glasses, alongside our wallets and mobile phones. Say what you want about the people of Kiev, and people in general, but it always makes you hate them a little less when they go for your cheap alcohol and leave the valuables untouched.
Even more charming was the money they left behind as “payment” for the champagne, I guess – a neatly folded up single ghrivna with a little coin – 5 kopeeks worth – on top, was lying where the bottle had been.
Either this was the champagne fee, or else they felt bad for two girls who were, perhaps, kicked out of their home and were spending the night by the river.
Of course, we weren’t the only ones out there. The beach of Kiev’s Trukhanov Island was alive with several bonfires, revelers and solicitous stray dogs who would gladly exchange their heart, soul and soulful gaze for a half-eaten turkey sandwich. As dawn broke, lovers in love walked next to the water, occasionally casting amused glances in the direction of two clearly hungover women huddled together for warmth, passing a plastic cup of champagne back and forth.
This is what we looked like shortly after the sun began to rise:
We hadn’t planned to come out to the beach at night. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made while we were halfway through our third bottle of champagne for the evening. Energized out of our languid stupor by the fabulous idea, we trooped to Sasha’s apartment, announced to her grandmother that we were going to stay at my dacha for the night, grabbed blankets, jackets and contact solution for yours truly. We hailed a car on Maidan and our driver tried to persuade us to abandon our plans.
“It’s cold out there and there are perverts,” he told us. “If you need a place to stay, come over to mine. My grandmother’s around, so no funny business.”
We laughed and paid him way too much money, and got off by the pedestrian bridge across the river.
When I started having doubts about perverts as we trooped across the island, my pumps drowning in the sand, Sasha told me that tonight, all of Kiev’s perverts are at home masturbating and watching old 90’s crime dramas, and none are venturing out onto the beach. It was a long-shot, but I was willing to believe it, because it was a beautiful night, because the stars were out, because birds chirped in the trees, alarmed by our loud progress, because I wanted to sit and sing in the sand, instead of slogging back home with irritable and/or drunk commuters, because the window for doing crazy, random crap get smaller as your responsibilities get larger, because, as Sasha told me, “this is your city and it loves you and sometimes you have to keep a vigil and love it back.”
Sometimes, you can’t allow your life to be ruled by the possibility of perverts. If I had, I would not have watched my city wake up, or seen the morning sun hitting the Ark of Friendship Among Peoples (or however it is you call that thing in English):
As we made our way back to the comforts of civilization around 6 a.m., Sasha pointed out that it looks as though the ark was designed to shine brightly for those who are on the river or on the island. And perhaps it was.
There were very determined fishermen out on the bridge whose sporty clothes and lively conversation jarred horribly with our sand-covered, sleepy selves. At the kiosk at the end of a bridge, a saleswoman and her two male friends were fighting fire with fire – drinking cold beer to stave off their own hangovers, and kissing, and somewhere above them there was Vladimir with his eternal cross, watching, I thought.
“Alright, girls?” They called to us as we crossed over and made for Pochtova Square.